In my high school, there were no “otaku kids” – at least none that I knew of. I was about two years away from discovering the goodness of Card Captor Sakura, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Tenchi Muyo! Some of my friends were addicted to Dragonball Z, but were certainly better classified as DBZ fans than as anime fans. And because of lack of experience (and having experienced just a little bullying myself), I don’t understand the difficulties many young anime fans and cosplayers go through these days.
But I do know what it takes to stop bullying in its tracks.
Kotoura-san, besides being very funny, has some depth to it. The first two episodes emphasize bullying a lot, as Kotoura is bullied relentlessly by old classmates and then by new because of her gift (or curse). It becomes particularly tough for her after she vomits following a fortune-telling session with Hiyori, and the entire school it seems, led by Hiyori and her friends, make school life as miserable for Kotoura as it’s ever been.
But as it is in any case where someone is being victimized – from bullying to genocide – the power to make change lies with the individual. Manabe doesn’t hesitate to stand up and defend Kotoura. He is an upstander – a person who stands up and fights for what is right – the opposite of a bystander.
Manabe has much to lose – he could be ostracized by his classmates, he could lose an important friendship, and he could even be doing this for a girl that doesn’t feel the same way he does. And yet, without apparently much thought of self, he marches right up to Hiyori and chastises her. Mifune plays the role of upstander, too – she is just behind Manabe, and would have no doubt told the class her similar feelings if she had arrived first.
When you’re an adolescent, it may be much to expect you to stand up for what’s right – but still, it’s what you should do. I didn’t do it very often in high school, and I regret missing those opportunities. For those of us who are older, we have no excuse. It’s time for us to look around and stand up when injustice occurs or when someone is being victimized – even when it costs us something (or everything).
After all, being an upstander reflects the one word most of us hold dear. Being an upstander is being love.